By Vlada Groysman, MD
Summer is here, and we all love to travel! Whether you’re going to the beach, the mountains, or somewhere more exotic, you’ll need to be sure to stay rash-free. We have compiled the seven most common rashes we see in our clinic that people pick up during summer travel. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of each and how to prevent them!
Rash 1: Swimmer’s Itch:
Swimmer’s itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, appears as an extremely itchy rash on exposed skin. It’s caused by an allergic reaction to certain parasites that are released from infected snails into fresh and saltwater. These parasites are especially prevalent in marshy areas, lakes, and ponds. If the parasite encounters a swimmer, it burrows into the skin causing bumps, nodules, and blisters.
Your best bet for avoiding swimmer’s itch is to choose swimming spots carefully. Be wary of stepping on the floor of lakes, ponds, and marshy areas, as this is where snails burrow. Also, make sure to rinse and wash your body well after swimming!
Rash 2: Seabather’s Eruption or Sea Lice
Sea bather’s eruption is a rash that affects areas of the skin covered by a bathing suit, rather than exposed areas, after swimming in the ocean. It is caused by stings from the larval forms of certain jellyfish. Most cases of sea bather’s eruption occur during the summer, as it seems to occur more frequently in warmer water. It affects swimmers, snorkelers, and divers soon after getting out of the water.
We are huge proponents of rash guards for both adults and children, however, covering the skin with these types of suits will make stings and discomfort much worse.
To alleviate the reaction, applying diluted vinegar or rubbing alcohol may neutralize any toxins left on the skin. The best treatment is 1% hydrocortisone lotion applied 2-3 times a day for 1-2 weeks. In addition to treating the rash itself, you should wash the bathing suit in soap and water or rinse it with vinegar to kill the larvae.
To prevent this rash, make sure to shower thoroughly after swimming in the ocean. Also, avoid keeping wet bathing suits on for extended periods of time after swimming in the ocean.
Rash 3: Cutaneous Larva Migrans
Cutaneous larva migrans is a parasitic skin infection caused by hookworm larvae that usually infest cats, dogs and other animals. It usually presents on hands and feet, usually only affecting one extremity. Humans can be infected with the larvae by walking barefoot on beaches or contacting soil that has been contaminated with animal feces. It is also known as a “creeping eruption” because, once infected, the larvae will move under the skin’s surface and cause red lines or tracks. The infection is extremely itchy and quite uncomfortable.
To prevent this rash, avoid sitting or lying on wet ground without a towel underneath you. Also avoid walking on wet soil or sand with bare feet, if possible.
Rash 4: Scabies
Scabies is a common skin infestation of tiny mites called Sarcoptes scabiei. The mites burrow into the top layer of human skin to lay their eggs, causing small itchy bumps and blisters. Scabies is contagious and usually spreads through skin-to-skin contact with someone who is already infected.
While it spreads most easily in crowded conditions and in close contact, mites can live for about 2 to 3 days in clothing, bedding, or dust, making it possible to catch scabies from people who share the same infected bed, linens, or towels. In fact, most cases I have seen this year have been in patients who have traveled and not from direct contact.
The earliest and most common symptom of scabies is itching, particularly at night. Scabies will usually begin in the folds—particularly between the fingers, under the arms, on the wrists, on the buttocks, or in the belt line and groin.
Because these mites can live for so long in linens and dust, it’s important to wash bedding, clothing, and towels if you have any suspicion that mites may be present. Also, avoid skin to skin contact and crowded conditions, if possible.
Rash 5: Tinea Versicolor
Tinea Versicolor is a yeast infection of the skin that naturally lives on your skin. Yeast grows out of control, either due to oily skin, humidity, sweat or low immune system. Tinea versicolor affects the chest, back, shoulders, abdomen, neck, and/or arms, and is uncommon on other parts of the body. Sometimes the patches start scaly and brown, and then resolve through a non-scaly and white stage. The condition is easily treated. Most patients present after sun exposure and complaining of white spots on back and chest that don’t tan.
To prevent this infection, avoid skin products that make your skin oily. You can also try to wear breathable fabrics that decrease sweating and to use an antifungal shampoo.
Rash 6: Phytophotodermatitis
This is a relatively unknown skin condition that happens as a result of sensitivity to chemicals in certain plants and fruits. Margaritas by the pool, limes with beer, or orange slices on the beach are common in the summer, but consuming citrus in the sun can cause a particular skin rash. The reaction is triggered when the affected skin is exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet light.
Phytophotodermatitis is different from most other sun-related skin conditions because instead of affecting all areas of skin exposed to the sun, it affects only the spots that the chemicals touch directly. That means the reaction may appear in unusual patterns of streaks, drips and, sometimes, as fingerprints or handprints. The handprint formation is common on children who have had adults with the chemicals on their hands apply sunscreen to them or otherwise touch their skin.
Rash 7: Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are small insects that feed on human blood. They hide in dark places like box springs, mattresses or couches and usually crawl out to feed at night. Bed bugs hide in the crevices of mattresses, box springs, headboards, couches, and other places. Also, before a bed bug draws your blood, it injects you with a substance that prevents you from feeling the bite. When you wake up, you may notice itchy welts.
To find bed bugs, you usually have to look carefully. An adult that is full of blood can be the size of an apple seed.